Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan[a] standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”
5 Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.
6 The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: 7 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.
8 “‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. 9 See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes[b] on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.
I’d written this the other evening and then my computer lost the lot…
So, hopefully this will bless you.
It is another strange passage at first glance, but let us look at the big story.
Here we have the High Priest, ritually unclean and defiled, it is a shocking image for the Jewish listeners with their purity laws.
More-over the Priestly image is one of being someone who stands between the people and God and as mediator and advocate.
Also, the Priest was the one who administered the sacrifices, who killed pure, blameless and undefiled animals-mainly lambs, goats and doves- to ‘take the punishment for us, the sins transferred to them’ – which is where we get the phrase scapegoat from.
It was only the High Priest who would be allowed into the Holy of Holies, the most holy place in the temple, separated from everyone by a great curtain stretched from the top to the bottom of the temple (and around three foot thick).
If the High Priest was defiled, impure, with spot or blemish, then the High Priest would be struck dead and pulled out as he went into the holiest place tied on a rope.
Here the High Priest’s defiled state the people would expect to see the High Priest struck dead, judged by God and condemned to death.
Yet the name of the High Priest is a sign, a clue, of hope. The High Priest’s name was Joshua, which can also be translated as Jesus, which means “Our God Saves”.
Then we see the great transaction, the defiled cleansed, the impure becomes pure, sanctification happens, as the sullied and soiled clothes are removed and replaced with fresh white robes.
Echoes of the song which talks of “in royal robes I don’t deserve, I live to serve, your majesty”.
As I thought around this picture, I thought about how we can try and justify and pretend that we are ‘alright’ with our lives when in reality we know we have sinned and need Gods forgiving love and grace… In Isaiah we hear that our good works are but “stinking rags” to God, our best efforts won’t be good enough for God’s Holy and perfect standards, we need the clothes he freely gives us in exchange for our foul rags.
As I thought of this picture in Zechariah I was reminded of the verse which talks of Jesus, the only
pure and holy one, “he who knew no sin, became sin for us, so we might have the righteousness of God”.
When we come to Christ our great High Priest encrusted in our sin, he forgives us, cleanses us, and clothes us in fresh robes, a visual picture of salvation, rescue “a branch snatched from the fire”.
Yet this visual picture also has a narrative too.
“The Lord says “NO” to you Satan”.
God reigns and is sovereign, and Satan is answerable to God, and not the other way around.
Sin, shame, stain and stench do not get the last word.
Instead, we have a prophetic word pointing towards that “the Lord will remove the sin from the land in one day” fulfilled with Christ’s final words upon the cross was“It is finished”.